Opinion Pieces: Buses are boring and trains are sexy – time to do something about it?

Opinion Pieces: since 2007, Prof. David Hensher has written an opinion column in the Australasian Bus and Coach magazine, where he monthly discusses a lot of different transport-related hot topics. In this section we are revisiting these columns.

December 2007

The image of the simple bus is not good. It has essentially remained as a rectangular box (with the occasional mild curve) since we moved away from showing off the bonnet in the 1950’s. I have formed a very strong view that public transport in general and bus services in particular should be enshrined in the motto of delivering ‘frequency, connectivity and visibility’. Connectivity refers to the provision of services that offer door-to-door services with minimum delay and almost seamless interchanges. While the idea of visibility is predominantly ‘knowing where the bus is going from and going to, and when’, good looks would not go amiss. It has the same implications as a car driver who prefers to travel in a smart looking sports car or modern Mercedes or BMW. When I discussed this with one of our very reputable bus body builders, the response was that we do need to make our buses look more interesting, but that government regulation requires specific angles for lights etc.

What I find very odd about this is that in many counties, notably in Europe, we have some really attractive buses that appear to preserve this feature without having to stay rectangular. A set of pictures that I often show people are given below. The first reaction is ‘what a nice looking light rail’? Wrong – they are actually buses. Indeed such better looking buses when manufactured in large volumes are very cost competitive with the rectangular box, and with some thought, can carry the same number of people. Combined with low floors, Euro 4 or better engines and style, they must surely be given more serious consideration than we see today in the Australian way of designing buses.

We eagerly await the first Australian-based bus body builder’s new offerings.

Food for thought.

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